In the “before” days, I used to say that some women got babies, and I got book deals instead.
And then in an incredible and ironic twist of fortune, I got both—at the same time.
My quip became, my second book and my first baby were due on the same day. The
baby came a little early, the book ended up being a little late, and they both arrived at just the right time.
That’s the short version. The long version is one I couldn’t write until now—until the final final edits were turned in and accepted, until the Table of Contents page was revised again, the book design was agreed upon, and the title was a go.
And, of course, until the regular semester was over, my summer classes had found their groove, and we’d moved out of our house. (Note: we haven’t moved into our new one yet, which is another update altogether.)
But really, it was a version I couldn’t tell until I could finally stop and just be, if even for half an hour. I hate the trite comparison that writing a book is like giving birth to a baby. Having been through both, I can vouch for the insipidness of that saying. Yet I do get stuck on the word “labor.” As in, to work, to toil, to physically strive for something.
Writing a book is not an easy task. Writing a book like my second book, a social history of modern chronic disease, which requires an extensive amount of research, interviews, and synthesis, would never have been easy. But researching it over the course of the past three years and writing it over the course of the past two? Honestly, it’s been grueling. Challenging, wonderful, exciting, and rewarding—absolutely. But finding the physical hours to carve out for it and the mental clarity and headspace to give it what it needed was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
(A quick recap of the past two years: high-risk, medically –intensive pregnancy, newborn/infant with health problems, catastrophic family illness, full-time job, teaching overload on top of that, new business, selling one house and buying another, chronic illnesses, etc., etc.)
I made a promise to myself and to my daughter that none of these other obligations would impact my time with her. I was (and am) fortunate enough to be her primary caregiver and to only use part-time childcare. That means getting everything else done around her, and that flexibility comes with a lot of choices. When you throw a book into this mix, almost everything else—socializing, blogging, sleeping—falls to the wayside.
Getting this book done was active, conscious, deliberate work. I remember setting my alarm for 4:30 am after stumbling into bed after the midnight feeding for almost a whole semester, tip-toeing in the dark past the nursery to my office, where I tried to squeeze into two hours of writing before she woke up and it was feed-play-leave for work time. There were the Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters, Mother’s Days, and Memorial Days where I stole away with my laptop the minute my daughter went in for a nap or went to bed. Eight pm through midnight became a built-in, automatic part of my workday.
(Side note: I am extremely thankful my daughter sleeps well, and predictably.)
My husband’s new business has him working both weekend days nine months a year, so when he got home late Saturday and Sunday afternoons, we’d trade off, and my workday would begin. We made it work, because that’s what you do when it’s worth it.
For most of this time, I lived in the extremes I thought I’d moved past, the kind of mindset where the only two “sick” days I let myself take were days when my doctor had to ask me, “Are you sure you shouldn’t be in the hospital? I think I should admit you…?”
I lived this way knowing it wasn’t sustainable long-term, and that’s sort of the point. My daughter will only be young once, and I don’t want to miss anything. Time is precious and fleeting as it is, as evidenced by our current state of bike riding, sentence speaking, ladder climbing, number counting, and general big kid-ness.
Getting a deal for a book like this, especially in the current economic climate, is an opportunity for which I am acutely grateful. I had the chance to ask questions I didn’t know the answers to, and was given the time and space to try and figure them out. I had to do that opportunity justice.
Some days, when I was particularly run down, I wondered what it would be like if all of this didn’t happen at the same time, but that was the exhaustion and self-doubt creeping in. It took me longer to finish the book than I anticipated, but the book is much better for that time and space. I wandered down paths I didn’t even know to consider when I started, and those journeys made for a richer discussion.
In the end, I fought. I fought to preserve my time with my daughter, and I fought to get this book done when I often felt pulled in many other directions...because that’s what you do when it’s worth it, and because it’s worth it, there’s no choice then but to do it. Most parents out there can echo that, no matter our disparate circumstances.
I write this not as an apology for my somewhat erratic presence in this space but as an explanation. Many things had to give, and I’m starting to recalibrate things a bit—new posts, new look, new perspective…lots of changes, and more engagement.
But tonight? Tonight I’m going to leave the student papers for the morning, and power down the laptop. For the first time in so long, it’s really a Friday night.